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New AR App Showcases Protest Art Across Seattle Design Festival

The Seattle Design Festival this year features an art show spanning across the city for supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Seattle Design Festival this year contains several displays that emphasise the Black Lives Matter movement through digital artwork, at several locations including the East Pine Street in Seattle. One can find a piece of hovering artwork in the sky containing an alternative message for the BLM movement i.e. three-dimensional red lettering of the words ‘Our Streets’. However, this digital art piece can only be observed by using a smartphone. It is being displayed as a part of the Seattle augmented reality (AR) art show called Amp’Up Seattle. Users can download the Amp’Up Seattle mobile application to access eight different virtual artworks that are spread across the current cityscape.

Viewers of the show can use their smartphones to observe an alternative view of Seattle that has been designed to include racial justice protest-related content.

Gargi Kadoo, a designer from design and architecture firm GGLO, is one of seven people in the team that developed the digital art show. She remarked that the team decided to explore art inspired by the BLM movement. Speaking about the design project for the Seattle Design Festival, she said that the motivation for it was to celebrate art that has been brought down or vandalised.

Seattle Design Festival with augmented reality. Image: crosscut

Across the city, many museums, media outlets and businesses are putting in efforts to preserve instances of street art that also includes BLM-inspired art. Kadoo and her associates are making their own versions of artwork based on the street art styles in Seattle. Their objective is to breathe life into the protest movement by inspiring viewers.

Users of the Amp’Up Seattle application can find a floating 3D graffiti-like lettering art hovering over 23rd and Union in the city’s Central District. Viewers will come across the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Trayvon Martin with their smartphones. Users can also observe the Seattle sky at locations like the José Rizal bridge or Kerry Park to find digital art. They can come across pixelated raindrop clouds hovering overhead. Visitors to the Westlake Park can see a digital version of the “Right to Remain Heard” poster, created by Kreau, a Seattle-based local artist.

Hannah Estrich, who was a part of the project, said that the art initiative is an alternative way of coming together. According to her, the Amp’Up Seattle application is quite suitable for supporting the protests during the pandemic period. People can visit the locations and maintain the 6 feet distance even when they are together. Estrich emphasised that individuals do not need to be in close proximity to be a part of the experience.

The GGLO team conducted a trial run of the application days before it was launched. Estrich was at the Kerry Park location, trying out the features of the application. Its users can scan posters and stand at designated spaces to come across the 2D animations and 3D sculptures. The augmented reality features enhance the experience of the city by adding an extra layer.

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